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Foxconn denies iPod factory claims

Foxconn Electronics has “sternly denied” last week’s report on working conditions in its Chinese iPod factories. “Edmund Ding, spokesman for Foxconn, said there were huge discrepancies between the truth and the claims in the report, which he said seems like a vicious attack on the company,” reports DigiTimes. “He added that the company reserves the right to take legal actions over the report… He maintained that Foxconn, as an international company, abides by the employment law in China, which stipulates that the minimum wage for a worker in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone is 810 yuan (US$101) a month, and 700 yuan outside the special economic zone… The company also has been actively making improvements to workers’ living conditions.”

Energizer intros battery power packs for iPods

Energizer has announced a new line of portable battery-powered chargers for iPods, cell phones, and gaming devices. The Energi To Go Power Pack ($30) provides immediate power to iPods from four AA batteries. It works with any dockable iPod and includes a reusable charger, a dock connector tip, and four Energizer e2 Lithium AA batteries. Also announced were the Energi To Go Cell Phone Charger ($20) for various mobile phones, and the Energi To Go Gaming Power Pack ($30) for the Sony PSP, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. All three Energi To Go chargers will be available in September.

SpeckTone Retro iPod speaker system now shipping

Speck Products today announced that its SpeckTone Retro tabletop speaker system is now available. The $150 unit features a built-in iPod dock, a 4” subwoofer and two 3” drivers, and support for 4G and 5G iPods, the iPod nano and iPod mini. The SpeckTone Retro’s all-wood speaker cabinet comes in three lacquered finishes—green, black, and white. “SpeckTone Retro looks like nothing you’ve seen for the iPod. The elegance of 1950’s style makes a dramatic statement while enhancing the clean, modern look of the iPod,” says Speck.

Canadian Automobile Association seeks iPod ban

In an effort to cut down on traffic accidents caused by driver distraction, the Canadian Automobile Association is pressing provinces in Canada to ban the use of MP3 players, cell phones and other devices while driving. “Restricting the use of electronic devices, such as cell phones, MP3 players and wireless hand-held devices, [allows drivers to] truly focus on the driving task,” said CAA President David Flewelling. “It is also our hope that a preventative measure like this one will create a generation of motorists who recognize the severe implications of driver distractions. Driver distraction is the greatest unreported traffic safety issue in Canada.”

Report: Microsoft readying iPod rival, music service

Microsoft is said to be readying a handehld device and music service to compete with the iPod and iTunes Music Store. Following similar claims earlier this year, Reuters reports that the software giant has been privately demonstrating an entertainment device that plays videos and music. Microsoft has also reportedly held discussions with the music industry about licensing music for its own download service. A BusinessWeek report in January said Microsoft was “mulling its own digital device that adds gaming to music and video, in an effort to compete with Apple’s iPod empire.” The company was said to have reorganized its home entertainment and Xbox groups to better plan the device. In March, the Mercury News also reported that Microsoft was planning such a device.

ABC Family using iTunes Music Store to launch ‘Kyle XY’

ABC Family is using the iTunes Music Store to help promote the premiere of its new series “Kyle XY”. Beginning on June 20, iTunes users will be able to download the pilot show for free—six days before it makes its debut on TV. After June 27, episodes of “Kyle XY” will be available for $1.99 per episode. Multichannel reports: “An ABC Family spokeswoman said current plans call for the broadcast network to repurpose the first four episodes of the series, which follows the journey of Kyle (Matt Dallas), a mysterious teenage savant who is devoid of such human instinctive behavior as anger, joy and love, and the family who found him, four days after they premiere on the cable service.”

Sonic Impact debuts i-F2 enhanced portable speaker

Following up on its earlier travel speaker i-Fusion (iLounge rating: B+), Sonic Impact Technologies today announced i-F2, a “second-generation Fusion with improved audio [and] remote control.” Like i-Fusion, i-F2 houses its speakers and an iPod dock within a zip-closed ballistic nylon travel case, which boasts water-resistant power and audio ports, plus an internal rechargeable battery for hours of play without wall power. Two compartments in the unit’s fold-open halves will be capable of holding the iPod and a small accessory, such as headphones, while you travel. i-F2 will be available in a black and silver color combination in mid-August for $149, the same price as its remote-less predecessor.

Philips debuts new iPod-ready speaker systems

imagePhilips has introduced two new iPod-compatible speaker systems as part of its “Holidays in June” product launch. “At a time when consumers applaud multi-tasking and innovation, Philips’ new micro systems combine home entertainment with mobility to provide the best of both worlds,” says the company.

The Philips MCM118D Micro System ($99; August 2006) offers 30W of total power and features a docking station that works with iPods and Philips portable GoGear players. The unit comes with a remote control and will be available in black or white.

imageThe Philips MCM275D Micro System ($129; October 2006) is a silver wall-mountable system that features a built-in CD player with a front motorized disc door. The system also features a charging iPod dock, FM radio, sleep timer, USB connections, and remote control.

Analysts lower iPod sales estimates

Two Wall Street analysts today lowered their iPod sales estimates for Apple’s current quarter. Merrill Lynch analyst Richard Farmer cut his iPod estimate to 8.1 million units from 9.2 million units based on historical sales data. Farmer lowered full-year sales estimates to 39.4 million from 43.4 million units. American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu also lowered his estimates today, despite what he says is a strong reception to Apple’s recent back-to-school Mac-iPod promotion. Wu slightly reduced his iPod unit forecast to 8.3 million from 8.5 million. “We are seeing weaker iPod nano shipments (we believe in part due to Apple consciously drawing down inventory) offset by strength in vPods and iPod shuffle,” Wu said. “We continue to believe the iPod nano is in need of a refresh and will likely see one in the September quarter.”

Report: Apple to unveil iPod with ‘none-touch’ technology

Apple is set to introduce its next generation iPod, according to a high-ranking executive from the company’s Asian manufacturing partner, Hon Hai Precision. Bloomberg News reports that at an annual meeting this week in Taiwan, Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou said Apple is about to unveil a new iPod using a “none-touch” concept. Gou did not elaborate further, though he said he expects the company’s revenue to grow at least an average of 30 percent in the next five years based on rising orders from Apple and Sony. Hon Hai owns the Foxconn iPod factories in China, which are at the center of recent labor abuse claims.

Apple cuts iPod nano, Hi-Fi prices in UK

Apple has slightly lowered iPod nano and iPod Hi-Fi pricing in the UK. Apple has cut prices by £10 on all three nano models—the 1GB nano now costs £99, the 2GB model is £129 and the 4GB nano is £169. The price of the iPod HiFi was dropped from £249 to £229. Apple UK also cut £50-£100 off iMac models, and £50 off its Mac mini line.

Scandinavian groups extend Apple’s iTunes deadline

Consumer rights protection agencies in Denmark, Norway and Sweden have extended Apple’s June 21st deadline to respond to concerns over the iTunes terms of service. The company now has until August 1st to address the complaints. “The consumer agencies in the three countries last week wrote to Apple alleging that customers had to relinquish fundamental rights such as the right to freely use legally bought products in order to download music from iTunes,” reports Reuters. “In the letter, the Scandinavian agencies claim Apple’s standard customer contract violated Norwegian law and were clearly unbalanced, disadvantaging the customer.”

Apple taking orders for Nike + iPod Sport Kit

Apple has begun accepting pre-orders for the Nike + iPod Sport Kit, which was announced late last month. The $29 system consists of a wireless shoe sensor and iPod nano receiver that allow users to record and track workout information such as time, distance, calories burned and pace. Apple states on its website that the Nike + iPod Sport Kit will ship in 4-5 weeks. The first Nike+ shoes designed to work with the kit are expected to start shipping in July. [via TUAW]

Mix: iCheating, Toilet issues, Breakout quarter, Apple fine

Schools in Alberta, Canada have banned students from listening to iPods during exams. “You can record stuff onto your iPod,” said Ben Heshka, a 12th grade student. “Like just read out your notes and just record it as a song and just listen to it. That’s been known to happen.”

A pink iPod mini that was dropped down a toilet by a Santa Clara University student has finally been removed from the university’s drain system after months of efforts. One maintenance worker called the device “indestructible” after trying to clear it from the pipes.

MusicGremlin takes on iPod with wireless player, music service

MusicGremlin today launched an innovative new wireless digital audio player and music download service. The company’s $300 Gremlin device can connect to nearly any Wi-Fi network and download songs from MusicGremlin’s store directly to the player—without the use of a computer. Like iTunes, individual tracks are priced at 99 cents each. The company also offers a subscription plan, which lets customers download an unlimited number of MusicGremlin’s 2 million songs for $15 per month. In addition, two Gremlin owners can share music wirelessly if they are both subscribers. The Gremlin player features an 8GB hard drive, FM receiver, 2-inch color LCD screen, and up to 10 hours of battery life.

ITC launches probe in Creative vs. Apple patent dispute

Creative Technology said today that the U.S. International Trade Commission has voted to launch an investigation into whether Apple’s iPod infringes on Creative’s U.S. Patent 6,928,433, which the company refers to as the “Zen Patent.” Creative filed the complaint with the ITC last month alongside a patent lawsuit against Apple. The company alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 regarding the importation of iPods into the U.S., which Creative claims infringe on its patent. Creative is requesting the blockage of iPod shipments into the country.

Apple responds to iPod ‘sweatshop’ claims

Apple has responded to the recent claims of poor working conditions at iPod factories in China, stating that it takes the allegations seriously and that it is looking into the charges. “Apple is committed to ensuring that working conditions in our supply chain are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible,” Apple said in a statement. The company said it is “currently investigating the allegations regarding working conditions in the iPod manufacturing plant in China. We do not tolerate any violations of our supplier code of conduct which are posted online.”

Intempo offers spherical iPod speaker (Updated)

Intempo recently introduced the iDS-02, a new spherical 2.1 speaker system for iPods. The iDS-02 features a built-in iPod dock, 2 x 7.5 watt stereo speakers and 15 watt subwoofer, a remote control, USB and Firewire connectivity, and a 3.5 mm line-in port for connecting other audio devices. “The compact iDS-02 surround-sound system packs in the latest technology to deliver great volume, plenty of detail and excellent bass response,” says the company. “Its sleek design and smooth lines will look great wherever you use it.” The iDS-02 is available in white or black for $250. [via Gizmodo]

Updated: Intempo will sell the iDS-02 in the United Kingdom only; it is the same product as mStation’s Orb, previously covered on iLounge.

GEAR4 intros X-Clip Sports Armband

GEAR4 has announced the X-Clip Sports Armband, the latest addition to its X-Clip collection of iPod accessories. The X-Clip Sports Armband includes a cushioned and adjustable armband for the iPod nano, a detachable protective case, and a weatherproof “RainJacket” cover. It also comes with a cable management clip, two-piece protective film for the nano, reflective strips, belt clip and lanyard. The X-Clip Sports Armband, which is priced at $29, is compatible with a number of GEAR4’s interchangeable X-Clip accessories.

H2O Audio ships waterproof housing for 5G iPods

H2O Audio today announced that its new waterproof and impact-resistant housing for the fifth-generation iPod is now shipping. The new H2O Audio housing is submersible up to 10 ft (when paired with H2O Audio waterproof headphones - $40) and features the company’s Commander Scroll Wheel controller, Latch Tight locking system, and Seal Tight connector for standard headphones. The housing comes with a sport armband and sells for $90. “The new H2O Audio for iPod features patented engineering and design that provides absolute waterproof protection for fifth-generation iPod owners,” says the company. “The new H2O Audio housing protects the iPod’s video screen from any scratches or abrasions, so the user can always enjoy a clear video image without annoying marks or screen interference. It’s an ideal solution regardless of outdoor conditions or recreational activities.”

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